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Sabres Win! Lightning Unlucky 13

For one night at least, the Buffalo Sabres became an offensive power.

Generally not known for their offense, the Sabres produced their biggest output of the season to beat the hapless Tampa Bay Lightning 7-3 Monday night.

Donald Audette had two goals and an assist and Brian Holzinger added a goal and three assists as Buffalo improved its season-best unbeaten streak to six (4-0-2).

"It means a lot (reaching .500)," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said after the Sabres climbed to 21-21-10. "The players have really dug in and paid the price. You've got to give them credit. They dug a big hole and got out of it. Now, we're at the top of the hole."

The Sabres are 7-2-4 over their last 13 games.

Tampa Bay saw its franchise-record losing streak reach 13. The Lightning are also winless in 14 (0-13-1) since a New Year's Eve victory over the New York Rangers.

Tampa Bay has now scored three goals or less in 31 consecutive games.

"There's not much you can say when you get beat like that," Lightning coach Jacques Demers said. "Ten minutes into the game, we were out of it. It's got to stop."

Buffalo scored three goals in the opening period for the first time this season.

Richard Smehlik blasted a shorthanded slap shot from just inside the blue line at 4:00. Holzinger made it 2-0 at 6:59 on a wrist shot from point-blank range. Audette added a rebound backhander at 8:33.

"When you come in here and play against a team that's been struggling as of late, you want to get them behind the eight-ball right off the bat," Holzinger said. "It was one of those nights where everything jelled. It helps when you get on the board early and we rolled from there."

Holzinger has a goal in three consecutive games and a four-game point streak (3 goals, 4 assists). Alexei Zhitnik, who set up three goals, has seven points (1 goal, six assists) over the past four games.

Dixon Ward, Jason Dawe and Mike Wilson had second-period goals for the Sabres. Audette added his second in the final period.

Lightning left wing Rob Zamuner snapped a personal 13-game goal-scoring drought and defenseman Cory Cross stopped a 48-game streak in the second period with a shorthanded goal. Brent Peterson had the other Lightning goal.

Buffalo goaltender Steve Shields, making his first start since Dec. 27, picked up his second victory (2-4-2) as the Sabres improved to 9-1-1 all-time at Tampa Bay.

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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